Neil Oliver, best known as the presenter of several documentary series on archaeology and history including A History of Scotland, Vikings, and Coast, discusses how he became an archaeologist and broadcaster, as well as the current culture wars and the consequences of speaking freely.
He is in danger of becoming a ‘national treasure’ here in the UK, a man whose soft Scottish tones I could listen to for hours on every subject available, as he is an open book of knowledge, a sponge for new opinions and theories and a truly great storyteller.
In this enlightening 82 minute conversation it struck me that, although the talk never touched on the subject of nutrition in an archaeological context, apart from a brief digression into tooth enamel, it came around to the subject of hypotheses and science.
His dismay that the current paradigm in science being one of opinions that are fixed and can never be questioned, piqued my interest. His words reminded me of the work of Ancel Keys and his hypothesis that, despite question and debate, his hypothesis was clearly flawed and it is still being supported by a dogmatic establishment even now.
“A hypothesis, in order to be properly scientific, must be challengeable. If all you find is evidence that backs up your hypothesis you’re not learning anything. You learn something when actually your hypothesis is disproved, now you’ve got something to add to”
“Being proven wrong about something is upsetting, it’s not easy and as you say, you have to regroup, you have to go through a mourning process for the knowledge you thought you had and come out stronger and better”